- “The Arm of the Kraken”
- Artist: David Franklin
- Public Sculpture on Olympic Drive, Bainbridge Island, WA
Perhaps you noticed a giant piece of sea life protruding out of the sidewalk as you drive off the Bainbridge Island ferry. Right on Olympic Drive, just before you reach the Police Station, you encounter an octopus arm with a friendly flip of its tip. That is “The Arm of the Kraken.”
Essentially, the sculpture is simply saying “Welcome!” As Truman Burbank always said (on the Truman Show), “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”
The orange octopus arm is the latest outdoor sculpture in the public realm. It was installed on December 30, 2020. It was commissioned by Bill Marler, principle of Marler Clark Law Firm, which, of course, is “The Food Safety Law Firm,” the nation’s largest and most renowned of its kind. While the main offices of Marler Clark are in Seattle, the local branch was more recently opened by Marler, a long time Bainbridge resident.
The octopus tentacle replaces the giant chicken that stood in front for some time. Bill Marler and family already had a number of artworks by Indianola artist David Franklin. A conversation arose about Franklin’s interest in octopus forms, and Marler got excited about the same concept for his local office.
Franklin had created a pair of sculptures called “The Guardians” done for one of the entries to horticulturist Dan Hinkley’s Heronswood Botanical Garden in Kingston, WA.
Franklin has been inspired by and creating octopus arm forms since the turn of the millennium. He has made them in ceramic, wood and steel. He has made them small and very large. He has experimented with them during artist residencies from Alaska to Wisconsin.
The 12-foot version on Olympic Drive is carved from cedar in a progression from a chainsaw, to an electric power planer and four-inch grinder fitted with a Lancelot blade (think round chainsaw) on down to the refined D-adze.
Franklin is primarily a wood carver. He apprenticed with famed Northwest Coast Native Art carver Duane Pasco (Suquamish, WA., area) for a dozen years learning the ropes from intimate scale carvings to large-scale art productions and installations. What we see and really respond to beyond the form is that wonderful rhythmic surface texture of the Native American adze. They are the hand-held carving tools that refine the details of a design, the low relief sculptural carving. In this sculpture, the rhythmic surface is on the back of the octopus’ arm, and the underside that waves to the passersby has the refined, deeply carved double rows of its suckers.
Although Franklin was trained using ancient tree stock, some years ago he switched to “using materials from all around us that are overlooked…butt and chunks of the trees all around us that fall from storm or saw and development. I saw possibilities in wood being wasted all around us.” “The Arm of the Kraken” was one such large piece, given new life.
Franklin has several other public sculptures on the Island. For the past 20 years his “Big Mask” has been the sculpture that greeted visitors to the Kids-Up Playground at Battle Point Park. It will again greet visitors at the KidsUp! 2.0 playground currently being developed. He also has a pair of “Thunderbirds” in the playground’s pavilion structure.
Elsewhere in Kitsap County, Franklin has a number of public sculptures, including the Scandinavian designs in wood surrounding the Poulsbo Library and major integrated Northwest Coast Native Art designed doors in the Kitsap County Administration Building in Port Orchard, WA. (I was Chair of the Kitsap County Art Board that commissioned Franklin for the Administration building project in 2006 and was a jury member.)
Franklin’s Bainbridge Octopus arm is going to have a new sibling. You will be able to visit it in Seattle in front of the recently renamed Climate Change Arena. That arena is, of course, the oft renamed arena at Seattle Center. The new octopus arm sculpture was selected for the new Seattle National Hockey League franchise, “The Kraken.” It will be constructed of steel and glass and co-authored with glass artist Preston Singletary. Both artists are represented by Seattle’s Stonington Gallery. The hockey team had not announced their new name until after the sculpture competition last fall, so, the concept of kismet seems to have been in play here. The Kraken version of Franklin’s Octopus arm will also be able to “glow,” lit from within, which should make the work even more dynamic, sending sports fans off after a game with that warm, winning feeling.
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ABOUT BILL BARAN-MICKLE: 2020 Island Treasure Awardee . Recently, Bill has enjoyed exhibiting in several international art biennial exhibitions. Of the three in which he has participated, he won Third Place for Sculpture from the European Confederation of Art Critics in the Chianciamo Biennale, at the Chianciano Art Museum in Italy in 2011, and First Place in Applied Arts in the London Biennale of 2013. In 2013 alone, he will have participated in eight exhibitions: from London to a two-person exhibition near home. In addition, Bill was asked to be a representative for CCAC’s exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Metals Department, and a mix of group shows in New York City, Miami, Seattle and Las Vegas. Bill is the designer of the 10 foot Equitorial Bowstring Sundial located at the Richie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, WA and completed in 2015.